With nearly 11 million Facebook users (more than anywhere else in Sub-Saharan Africa) and the third most Twitter users on the entire continent, it's safe to say that Nigeria has a vibrant social media presence. Nowhere is Nigeria's netizen activity stronger than on Twitter, which has fast become the country's most robust platform for social chatter.
Nwachukwu Egbunike (NE) of Global Voices caught up with Tony Iribor (TI), who curates a new weekly production on Twitter called “Nigeria — the Twitter Round Up.”
TI: Tony is a happy guy who loves to laugh. The first of six children from Ebonyi State in Nigeria. A singer, song writer, a rookie instrumentalist, a lover of music and shoes.
NE: What’s the story behind the weekly presentation of conversations in Nigeria’s TweetVilla, the Twitter Round Up?
TI: To be very honest, it was born out of the need to meet up a deadline for a friend’s website. I was introduced to the editor of the website that hosts the round-up. And one of the expectations was to contribute content to the site. I could not meet up as often as expected so one day the thought just dropped. How about I put together a summary of events on Twitter Nigeria? Especially for those who are not always there when they happen. I had not seen it done by anyone before so I decided to give it a try. I spoke to the editor and he liked the idea and the rest is what we have now.
NE: How do you choose your theme or story each week?
TI: The stories are usually picked from the various topics discussed on Twitter daily. Twitter being what it is, gives people room to say what they think about anything. So it could be politics, religion, etc. Even though some topics get recycled from time to time.
NE: What has the feedback from your audience been like?
TI: It has been good. At first I was not sure how it would be received, but now I feel I am under some kind of pressure to meet the need for my regular readers. There are Mondays when I get tweets from people asking why the weekly round-up has not been published yet. There are those who read and go “Wow! I never knew all of that happened this week!” it makes me happy that I meet a need, if we can call it that.
NE: Which roundup has generated massive interest (measured by retweets, favorites and conversations)?
TI: Hmmmmn. I think there a few. I am not sure but I know there was one I did during the world cup where we had tweeps leading prayer sessions before one of our games (Weeks 15, 16 and 17) and the one that had the issue of the ponmo ban (Week 27). They were hilarious
NE: How will you describe the milieu of Nigerian Twitter – is it warm, aggressive, friendly or…?
TI: For me, it is that and even much more. It depends on your views on issues and how people see you.
NE: There has been an on-going conversation among media scholars and practitioners on the impact of social media conversation. Some think that it is irrelevant while others think it has been impactful. What are your views, especially but without limiting it to social media in Nigeria?
TI: Social media has been impactful no doubt. It has given people the chance to get their voices heard easier that what it used to be. It has also helped give momentum to causes. It has in a way, made it easy for people to gather and make things happen, both positively and negatively. However, I feel that people should not get carried away by social media alone. There is a time for social media and there is a time to hit the road and put action to whatever it is that needs to be done. It has become flesh or made real.
NE: In your opinion, has Twitter conversations been helpful in effecting social and political change in Nigeria?
TI: In a very small way, I would say yes. We are not yet at the point where what happens on twitter really brings the kind of political change we sometimes seek.
NE: Being an avid Twitter user, have you been able to morph your online ‘friendships’ into offline interactions?
TI: Yes, I have.
NE: Nigerians will go to the polls early next year for another general election. Will the social media be a potent flame or a damp squib in determining who wins or loses?
TI: Potent flame for awareness and propaganda for those online, yes. But the majority of those who will guaranty political parties’ victory are not on twitter. The serious politicians will have to appeal to those and look for how to get them to vote in their favour. Like I stated earlier, we are not yet at the stage where we can say social media will determine things like these.
NE: Any last words?
TI: No, there will be no last words. Why last words? I am still here. I am going nowhere. LOL. Whatever you do, make sure your life has a positive impact on someone else’s.